Ancient Orient Museum – Tokyo, Japan - Atlas Obscura

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Ancient Orient Museum

A hole-in-the-wall antiquities museum in one of Tokyo's most popular megamalls. 


Sunshine City is a massive urban complex consisting of five buildings in the Ikebukuro district, one of Tokyo’s busiest commercial hubs. Containing multiple shopping malls, an aquarium, a planetarium, an indoor amusement park, an observation deck, a whopping 60-story office building and a four-star hotel, it’s visited by over 30 million people every year.

But very few of them have heard of—let alone visit—the Ancient Orient Museum, one of Sunshine City’s least-appreciated attractions. Located on the seventh floor of the Culture Center annex building, where there is far less traffic than inside the megamall, it’s not something one might come across by accident. But do go up and you’re in for an antiquarian treat.

Established in 1978, the museum currently holds about 4,000 items in its possession, including artifacts from ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, Persia, Gandhara, and the Silk Road. This collection consists of pottery, bronzeware, gold jewelry, coins, statues, and terracotta idols, as well as miniatures of archaeological sites and life-size replicas of world-famous artifacts such as the Code of Hammurabi stele.

The Ancient Orient Museum has also led several excavation projects from its founding to 2001, researching several archaeological sites in Syria, Turkey, and Uzbekistan. The exhibit of a reconstructed Syrian household in the museum was modeled after the 3,600-year-old ruins in Tell Rumeilah that the museum helped dig up.

Unsurprisingly, the museum is small enough to see everything in an hour or so, but it is a fascinating detour nonetheless. It takes a family-friendly approach to archaeology, often hosting interactive workshops for kids as part of its educational program, and its exhibits are sure to quench any history enthusiast’s thirst for ancient artifacts while in Tokyo. Such collections are not commonly found in this side of the city, after all.

Know Before You Go

The museum is open from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, admission for adults 600 yen. To get there, walk through the first or B1 floor of the Alpa shopping mall towards its eastern end, and take the elevator there to the seventh floor of the Culture Center. The entrance will be on your left.

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September 24, 2021

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